In order to contain the illness, the hospital is asking visitors for their help.
Visitors are being asked to limit themselves to one per patient at a time. In an effort to limit the number of visitors, one family member should be designated to visit and/or stay with a patient.
"It appears the 2012-2013 flu season may be more severe than last year," said Dr. Gene Combest, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the hospital. "If a person develops a flu-like illness, it is important for them to avoid contact with others."
Children under the age of 14 should not visit the hospital, according MRHC officials. Those who have been ill with symptoms of the flu are also urged to not visit.
"To protect patients, co-workers, visitors and themselves, hospital and clinic staff who have not received the flu vaccine are being asked to wear masks," said Combest.
Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. All symptoms may not be present in every case. To prevent the spread of the illness, everyone is encouraged to wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently. Because the flu is airborne, the mouth and nose should be covered completely when coughing or sneezing. Tissues should be disposed of in the trash.
"Vaccination continues to be the best prevention," added Combest. "Although it may take up to two weeks after receiving the vaccine for it to be effective, the flu typically continues to occur until March, so it’s not too late to get the shot."
An adequate supply of the vaccine remains in the area, according to MRHC.
"It is important for children over six months and all adults to receive some type of influenza vaccine," said Dr. Combest. "Patients such as young children, pregnant patients, and people with chronic serious health issues and those over 65 should probably see their doctor for treatment if they develop the flu … high-risk patients whose illness is severe, i.e. high or persistent fever, and breathing difficulty, should seek medical attention promptly.”
According to the doctor, the CDC has found the H3N2 type of virus sensitive to medications used to treat influenza patients. He encouraged individuals to remember deaths from influenza are especially prominent in the very young and chronically ill populations, frequently due to developing pneumonia and other secondary bacterial infections.
"The best way to avoid the flu is to get the vaccine," said Combest. "Also avoid others who are ill and seek treatment once you become ill with even relatively severe symptoms."